At the sign of the Barking lion...

Unitarian chapel, Bury St Edmunds

At the sign of the Barking lion...

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Bury Unitarian

    The medieval grid of Bury St Edmunds began to fill with terraces in the 18th Century, and this fine red brick chapel of 1711 must have once been much more prominent than it is today, set back among the houses of Churchgate Street. As is common, it was built by a Presbyterian congregation who had bought the site for the purpose in 1690. They embraced Unitarianism early in the 19th Century, and by the 1851 Census of Religious Worship, the minister, one Henry Knott, could record that a hundred people attended morning worship. This was a modest number perhaps, compared with some of the town's other non-conformist chapels, but the Unitarians were a fashionable lot, and would have had a fair number of local worthies among their number.

The frontage of the chapel is grand, constructed of red brick with a huge, beautiful doorway case in the same material. Above, an oval window forms the main focus from the street and lights the gallery within. There is a sundial high above. In general, the building looks back to the 17th Century more than it does forward to the 18th.

There was a major restoration towards the end of the 20th Century, and I don't think the building is still in use for public worship. On the railings outside are faded signs suggesting you might want to hire it for a function, and the gates are locked, which seems a pity.


Simon Knott, August 2015

window Bury Unitarian sun dial



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